Entrepreneurs with Disabilities in Canada

Canadian entrepreneurs with disabilities are offered counseling and training, access to resources, and assistance by organizations that help them to start a business.

Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Established by the Canadian government, the program offers development assistance and training, business information, and counseling to individuals who are mentally or physically disabled. Persons living in Western Canada are eligible to apply. They are offered business loans that can be used to create marketing or promotional materials, upgrade equipment and facilities, and expand or start a new business. The money can also be used as working capital or to implement or purchase new technologies. Business services are also available through the Francophone Economic Development Organizations, Community Futures offices, and other bodies. The Community Futures offices are responsible for program delivery in rural areas. Different organizations work in cooperation with Western Economic Diversification Canada to deliver the program in urban areas. Such organization is, for example, the Prospect Human Services Society in Edmonton.

The program is offered through urban and rural delivery agents in 4 provinces – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Community futures organizations provide a number of services, including self-employment assistance programs, loans to medium-sized and small businesses, and advisory and technical services. Services targeting youth and strategic economic planning are also offered. The services provided by urban delivery agents vary by province and may include research for capital options, financial forecasts, information resources, and peer support and mentorship. In Manitoba, entrepreneurs are offered consulting services, networking opportunities, and help with business plan development. In British Columbia, loan applicants also benefit from business counseling, mentoring or coaching services, and financing for business training or planning. Other services offered to persons with disabilities include referrals, workshop training, and business advice. Click here for more options.

Organizations Offering Support and Networking Opportunities

Different organizations in Canada work to support entrepreneurs with mental and physical impairments, among which the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network and Ability First Ottawa. The latter offers support to disabled persons to help them develop employment and social skills and reach their full potential. Volunteers also work with participants to teach them self-promotion and networking skills. In addition, the organization offers guidance to mentors at a variety of events, including Entrepreneurs in Action and eSAX Ottawa Entrepreneur network trade shows.

The Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network has a membership of 900 agencies and individuals, offering mentoring, networking opportunities, and workshops. Participants can join meetings to explore topics such as accessible workplaces, labor market challenges, business development, and access to capital, management staff, and skilled labor force. The meetings are held every two weeks, and the goal is to educate participants and facilitate peer collaboration and networking.

Covid-19 is significantly impacting small businesses and entrepreneurs. Click here to learn more.

Funding for Postsecondary Education

Students with mental and physical impairments can apply for grants that cover university tuition, living costs, and equipment and services. The maximum amount for living costs and education is $4,000 and for services and assistive equipment – $20,000. Students are asked to submit supporting medical documentation, an application form, and schedule 4. Documents that serve as proof of disability include learning disability assessment and copies of a medical letter. The documentation required depends on the type of impairment that the applicant has. Students with ADHD or ADD are asked to provide a letter from a physician or psychiatrist or a neuro-psychological or psychologist report. Those who are hearing impaired or deaf present a letter from a physician or an audiologist report. Applicants who are submitting schedule 4 fill in amounts for specialized transportation, educational attendant care, academic strategist, and tutor with specific course knowledge. Estimates must also be indicated when applying for assistive technology and equipment, including smartpen or digital recorder, assistive software, and electronic writing or reading software. Students also indicate type of disability – psychological or psychiatric, visually or hearing impaired, agility or mobility impairment, etc.